Seven B2B dealers give their thoughts on what might happen this year, including the growth of cloud-based solutions, how Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia will pan out, the greater emphasis placed on Microsoft Office 365 and the acceleration of 4G
Matt Sandford – MD, Pure Telecom
2014 is going to be a year where confidence will grow in cloud-based solutions. Businesses are looking to simplify their comms strategy and home working is going to grow with all its green credentials. Office 365 is one of those products that will really make a big difference to businesses in the SME and small corporate sector with its flexibility and instant access to company data. This will help to bring what was traditionally office-based information and services alive real-time when staff are working from home, their car or on the other side of the world using smartphones and tablets/laptops.
Safe and trusted data storage is a vital part to any business however big or small and having a cost-effective option to store remotely away from the risk of fire or theft is massively important.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is growing at a rapid rate so it’s very important businesses have a good mobile device management (MDM) solution in place.
2014 will bring a wealth of new products and services to the marketplace to help make your clients stickier and will introduce new income streams to help bridge the gap from ever-eroding mobile and fixed-line margins.
The opportunities are out there for anyone who is serious about converged comms.
Ian Watson – MD, Voice Mobile
It will be interesting to see how the mergers of Nokia with Microsoft and Google with Motorola influence the market. From inception, Apple has dominated the tablet market, however there is huge gap within the business market for a Microsoft-based product. Google’s innovation and financial power coupled with Motorola’s patents could be the recipe for some intriguing concepts.
Amalgamation within the industry will continue, both for networks and within the channel. It will be interesting to see what Vodafone does with its recently-acquired funds (£84bn from the sale of Verizon). The lines between computers and mobile phones are becoming increasingly blurred, so the battle for customers will have new entrants. The channel will have to embrace and deliver new levels of sophistication and expertise to ensure they add the value, knowledge and products customers are starting to demand.
The most significant development will be the continued role out of 4G. EE has a major foothold in the 4G market and with a possible float or sale I think it could be another big year for the network.
Chris Stanton – Chairman, Welcomm Communications
The big progression in 2013 has been the race by the networks to roll out 4G, but more importantly to market it correctly. This will continue in 2014, however, I foresee a greater emphasis on value added services such as Microsoft 365 and additional telephony services. As a result of this, data expenditure will increase massively but the networks must not lose sight of the fact that it’s still a mobile phone and people will still want to talk.
Apple has been the dominant force in terms of hardware over the last few years, but its failure to be innovative towards the second half of 2013 has seen the other manufacturers leading in design and technology, and as a result, gaining vital market share. I see this trend becoming further amplified throughout 2014, and we could see a further real threat to Apple’s dominance from the Window devices as well.
Darren Ridge – CEO, OneCom
4G will be the big story in 2014. Take-up has been slow but steady so far, but we’ll see it really start to gather pace. Vodafone has put in huge amounts of investment which will start to pay off, and it will become the dominant 4G platform relatively quickly. People aren’t necessarily aware yet of the great speeds that 4G can achieve, but word will start to spread and the availability of 4G will soon become a crucial factor when firms decide which providers to go with.
We’ve already seen companies which only offer mobile phone services start to fall by the wayside as the drive for unified communications gathers pace. In 2014 that will continue, with smaller companies being absorbed into the larger operators. I would expect to see more consolidation. Businesses now want a complete package of services and providers which don’t offer that will find that they are left behind.
When it comes to devices, it’s going to be a good year for Nokia and Windows Phone – I expect to see them take a much larger share of the marketplace than they have so far as businesses realise how cost-effective and versatile they are. The future’s less certain for BlackBerry – it might become a software house and could be acquired by Microsoft.
James Phipps – CEO, Excalibur
2014 will continue to bring Nokia’s B2B market share up as Microsoft brings the full force of the marketing machine into play. With customers continuing to want an “end-to-end” experience, we see
Windows 8 growing over mobiles and tablets further. Network partners will have to really move to solution selling as the days of pure mobile-based dealers will be well and truly over in 2014 as traditional mobile ARPU is further eroded. Although market consolidation will continue, the pace will slow as margins get squeezed and the focus will turn to trying to take commercial advantage of 4G before the EU roaming legislation hits in 2015.
Paul Davis – MD, Aerial Business Communications
2013 has seen significant growth in all areas. As we move to 2014 with the continued rollout of 4G and move to the digital era of communications we can start 2014 knowing we are in for further technology advances.
Microsoft taking ownership of Nokia I am sure will see some significant steps forward for both companies as Nokia enters the tablet market, which though still dominated by Apple will, I am sure, see some market share pressure, as smaller businesses take advantage of cloud-based services and product such as 365. BlackBerry taking down its For Sale notices will be interesting to see if it can pull back some market share. As to the networks, they are all under pressure to keep their revenues which are constantly under attack by both new technologies, competition and Ofcom.
Keane Beaken – Sales Director, Focus Mobile
The networks will continue to rollout 4G, and tariffs and promotions will continue to focus on this. However, as customer complaints around 3G coverage in certain key areas continue to increase, it will be interesting to see if the networks will actually admit that the upgrading of cell sites in the UK is actually causing coverage to get worse rather than better, and if steps are taken to improve this.
Telefonica could well end up selling off its UK business to Three, and Vodafone will likely make further changes to its upgrade procedure and potentially refinements to its revenue share model. EE could well see interest in its network dwindle as its main selling point, the availability of 4G, becomes increasingly less relevant.
This year could see a significant revision to smartphone design. Metal casing seems to be coming back into fashion, with similar announcements from Nokia, LG and Samsung, so perhaps Apple will look to do the same, as it will want to lead the way in the premium handset stakes. It will be interesting to see what 2014 holds for BlackBerry.
Finally, 2014 could be make-or-break for wearable technology, specifically the smart watch. Consumer interest has been limited so far (to say the least), but with Apple releasing the iWatch, we could still see this turnaround – I for one am certainly interested in a watch that supports iOS.